Aaron Ekman, a well-known figure in B.C.’s labour relations sphere is the new chair of the University of Northern British Columbia’s Board of Governors. Ekman has been a provincially-appointed representative on the board since May 2018, and was re-appointed July 2019 for a two-year term.
While chasing construction work across the province, Ekman, born in Terrace, became an active and successful union organizer. Within a month of settling in Prince George in 2009, Ekman was elected president of the Prince George and District Labour Council, and in 2011, while representing and negotiating on behalf of provincial public servants and health care workers across northern B.C., became the founding president of the North Central Labour Council. In 2014, Ekman was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, and served two terms.
“Though I’m hardly an academic,” said Ekman. “I’ve developed a profound appreciation for the herculean effort northerners expended to establish UNBC, and for how vital it remains to the identity and for the advancement of northern communities, many of which are now facing significant economic challenges. This university has attracted and developed world-class faculty and staff while remaining laser-focused on serving the diverse interests of northerners. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished, and honoured to play a roll confronting the challenges ahead.”
Ekman has served on UNBC Board’s Governance Committee since September 2018, including taking on the role of governance committee chair in August 2019. Ekman is also an active community member serving as a board member of Pacific Blue Cross, the Working Opportunity Fund, the Winch Institute, and formerly the BC Labour Heritage Centre, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“UNBC continues to make a demonstrable impact, not only in the communities we serve but around the globe, and that is due to the tremendous knowledge and effort provided by our students, alumni, faculty, staff, supporters, and of course our governing bodies, the Senate and Board,” said UNBC Interim President Dr. Geoffrey Payne. “During his time on the board to date, Mr. Ekman has been a leader, providing valuable insight during our many and varied conversations. I’m looking forward to his support, as well as that from the Board as we continue working towards our vision of being Canada’s leading destination university.”
In addition to the board chair election, Andrew Robinson is now the vice-chair of the Board. Robinson, a UNBC graduate (Master of Arts – First Nations Studies, 2009), is the Chief Administrative Officer at Laxgalts’ap Village Government. He has been a Deputy Representative Aboriginal for the BC Representative of Children and Youth, an indigenous consultation reviewer with BC Assets and Lands, and served in various positions with the McLeod Lake Indian Band and Nisga’a Lisims Government. Robinson is an active member of his community serving as a fire fighter, with the road rescue unit, and as a Greenville Athletic Club Director. He was previously the president of the Nisga’a Pacific Limited, member of the Nisga’a Business Review Body and served as a member of UNBC’s Senate.
The 15-member UNBC Board of Governors has oversight and responsibility for the management, administration and finances of the University. The University Act of British Columbia sets-out the membership of the Board, which is composed of the Chancellor, UNBC President, eight members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and five elected by the University community (two students, two faculty members, and one staff member).
The Board of Governors meets at least four times per year to conduct its general business; the next regular meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18, 2020.